Reviewed: Feb 2018
The Sukhoi Su-17 (NATO reporting name: Fitter) is a Soviet variable-sweep wing fighter-bomber developed from the Sukhoi Su-7. It enjoyed a long career in Soviet, later Russian, service and was widely exported to Eastern Bloc, Arab air forces, Angola and Peru as the Su-20 and Su-22. The Su-20/22 designation was mainly used to identify upgraded Su-17 export aircraft with the M3/M4 sub-variants being two of the last batch produced.
The Su-17UM was the first two seat trainer with the same avionics suite as the Su-17M2. The UM series had a second instructor cockpit installed in place of the fuselage fuel tank (thus reducing overall internal fuel capacity). To improve forward visibility for the rear instructor, a retractable periscope/mirror was added on top of the rear canopy and the rear view mirror of the front canopy was deleted. Additionally, the portside NR-30 cannon was deleted, however full avionics and ordnance pylons were retained making the trainer fully combat capable. Export versions with the R-29 engine were designated Su-22U. Manufactured 1976-1978, entered service in 1976.
The Su-17/22UM3 (S-52UM3, "Fitter-G") was an improved variant (believed to be based on the Su-22M3/4 airframe) followed the Su-22UM on the production line. Featuring the taller squared off vertical tail and ventral fin of the Su-22M-4, although the M4 fin intake and dedicate AAM pylon were not installed. Su-22UMs can be equipped with with a single chaff/flare dispensers on either side of the tail, while the single seat Su-22M4 can carry two such dispensers.
This is the third boxing in Kittyhawks 1/48 Su-17M3/M4 family and brings us the two seat trainer variant. Not surprisingly KH have planned for this version from the start and the engineering of the kit (multi-part fuselage etc) has hinted at this all along.
Having previously done a fairly detailed review of the single seat kit - Sukhoi Su-22 M3/M4 (KH80146) the plan here is to only look closely at the key differences that KH provide to make a two seater.
The kit contains a couple of new sprues (two seat specific parts) and where new parts have not been provided the instructions have been updated to show the modeller areas that need to be modified/removed for the two seater. eg the port side cannon should be left out and the heat shield filled with putty to remove it.
Kittyhawk have once again been generous with markings, providing no less than six options, including a very colorful Polish tiger scheme.
A side by side comparison of the parts list and sprue layout reveals the physical differences between the original single and this new two-seat kit:
Disappointingly right off the bat the infamous KH instructions are wrong. I picked this up pretty easily for part E76 (front cockpit bulkhead) as the two seater part looks very different to the single seater. The instructions show the correct part (with the little window cutouts) but the part number callouts are wrong, calling for part A1 rather than the correct part E76. Where I got caught initially was for the rear bulkhead because part E37 looks about right and it does fit the rest of the tub. Things go pear shaped once you try and fit the tub to the fuselage because E37 is designed for the single seat kit and its actually part A1 which is the correct part for the two seater kit. Bottom line, once more, poor QA from KH on its instructions.
Once you use the right parts the cockpit tub goes together pretty well. The side consoles are provided as individual parts to make for ease of painting. As you can see the detail is nicely molded and meets my standards for 1:48.
The new rear cockpit is well appointed with the instructors instrument panel and shroud fairly well done. Once the clear glazing goes over this section much of this wont be too visible anyway. The general fit of the multi-part cockpit tub is good.
The instructors instrument panel is typical of 1970's era jets with all analog instruments and plenty of them. To my eye KH have gotten the shape and layout of the panel pretty good with the exception of the raised center section (in place of the front cockpit HUD) which should stand proud of the rest of the IP and not flat like KH have provided.
KH provides single piece decals for each of the instrument panels and side consoles. I appreciate that they have only printed the foreground colors and not tried to match the background (in this case light grey) cockpit color like they did in the single seat kit. When manufacturers do this they never seem to get the color match right and the model is left with an awkward mismatch between the painted sections and the decaled sections.
The front cockpit is of course the same as the single seater and KH use the exact same parts to represent it here.
As I was dry fitting the cockpit tub assembly into the fuselage I was frustrated at the small and flimsy mounting guides provided by KH. To make my life easier I glued some larger Evergreen strips to align with the kit guides. This simple addition now means the tub clicks into place (and stays there) as I assemble the fuselage halves.
The tub fits very cleanly into the forward fuselage (much like it did in the single seater before it). I had to do no trimming or adjusting to make everything fit together as you see here.
Sukhoi introduced several subtle variations between the single and dual seat Su-22M3 in and around the forward fuselage:
A test fit of the fixed canopy framing between the front and rear cockpits revealed no issues here. The locating lugs on the clear part could have been a little bit larger IMO to allow for a more secure fit but once glue is applied this will not be a problem.
To accommodate the forward facing periscope in the rear canopy Sukhoi added additional framing. KH provides this as two parts that attach to the interior clear part via locating pins. This all goes together nicely and a drop of liquid glue is all that is needed to hold it securely. I have not yet attached the periscope door itself. A quick dry fit of the canopy to the fuselage revealed a neat fit with no problematic gaps to deal with.
A new (shorter) fuselage spine section has been provided in the two seat kit to account for the changes to accommodate the rear cockpit. Sadly (but not surprisingly) Kittyhawk have retained the tab and slot locating method for the spine. I did a quick dry fit of the rear canopy to ensure it could be placed at the correct angle with no issues.
Kittyhawk have correctly marked up the assembly instructions to highlight areas of the kit that need to be modified by the modeller during construction. The heat shield on the portside only needs to be filled to remove. Likewise do not install the portside NR-30 cannon. I would fill the small hole in the leading edge with some round rod or stretched sprue and then sand flush.
This photo of a Polish Fitter shows to good effect the visible differences of the two seater. Notice the lack of heat shield on the fuselage just forward of the wing root, the missing cannon on the leading edge, the open periscope on the instructors canopy and the lack of the third dedicated AAM pylon on the wing.
Based on my reading, I believe the two seater did not have the dedicated AAM pylons fitted. I suggest you do your own research on this or trust Kittyhawk.
That pretty much covers off the two seater specific parts in this boxing. If you would like to see how the rest of the kit stacks up I'd encourage you to continue on to my review of the earlier single seater kit here.
Kitty Hawk once again provides a generous amount of marking options for both Soviet and foreign operators of the Fitter G.
Each paint scheme is provided in a full color glossy spread across two A4 pages (so nice and big). Color callouts are all using Gunze Mr Color paints. I would advise caution when using the colors indicated and do a healthy amount of testing to match sure the match is optimal based on reference photos.
As with previous KH releases, the kit decals seem to be well printed with no obvious registration issues. Though not as thin as you would expect from a set printed by say Cartograph or Microscale, I can confirm from previous KH builds, that the kit decals work well and respond as expected to setting & softening solutions. Some of the more colorful schemes have a lot of large and complex multi layer decals to be applied so bear that in mind when deciding on which option to go with.
The weapon options for the two seater, whilst not as varied as its single seat sibling, have their own dedicated paint and marking guide and decal sheet. From the quick glance that I had on the internet at standard Soviet weapon options the KH instructions look to be on track. The smaller stencil decal sheet has marking clearly laid out for each weapon type. A nice addition which is oh so often overlooked by other kit manufacturers.
With the release of this two seater Kittyhawk have pretty much finished their run of the late model Fitter variants. My impression of this family of kits remains the same as it was for the last review, good but plenty of room for improvement.
Overall Kitty Hawk continue to improve in many areas (general fit, detailing etc) while still dropping the ball in others (instructions sheets still riddled with errors, lazy design and engineering decisions etc).
In the end I believe the KH family of Su-17/22M3/M4 kits have more good points than bad and are extremely buildable. As always, the decision about how many of the kits 'issues' you decide to fix or live with as-is comes down to each modeller.